When government policy reinforced and added to residential segregation

The federal government may today be viewed as a party that wants to end residential segregation (see a recent argument by conservatives) but this was not always the case:

On how the New Deal’s Public Works Administration led to the creation of segregated ghettos

Its policy was that public housing could be used only to house people of the same race as the neighborhood in which it was located, but, in fact, most of the public housing that was built in the early years was built in integrated neighborhoods, which they razed and then built segregated public housing in those neighborhoods. So public housing created racial segregation where none existed before. That was one of the chief policies.

On the Federal Housing Administration’s overtly racist policies in the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s

The second policy, which was probably even more effective in segregating metropolitan areas, was the Federal Housing Administration, which financed mass production builders of subdivisions starting in the ’30s and then going on to the ’40s and ’50s in which those mass production builders, places like Levittown [New York] for example, and Nassau County in New York and in every metropolitan area in the country, the Federal Housing Administration gave builders like Levitt concessionary loans through banks because they guaranteed loans at lower interest rates for banks that the developers could use to build these subdivisions on the condition that no homes in those subdivisions be sold to African-Americans.

Both of these policies had long-term effects that helped lead to poor urban neighborhoods and whites moving to the suburbs. The federal government had enforcement power and resources to do things that other parties could not.

But, the federal government wasn’t the only force at work. Take Chicago, for example. Local government units, such as the city or the Chicago Housing Authority, made decisions about segregated public housing projects (a few projects were initially all white while the majority were non-white) and where they were to be located (largely in existing poor areas and as a burden to punish certain aldermen). Realtors weren’t exactly open to showing housing to blacks outside of the Black Belt. Residents tended to react angrily for decades when blacks moved in with little interference from police or local officials; see cases from the late 1910s to the 1951 case in Cicero where white mobs made their voices known. This all happened even until the late 1960s where Martin Luther King Jr. was opposed in fighting for open housing during the summer of 1966 and Wheaton was the first Illinois community with an open housing law (passed July 3, 1967 – as a point of comparison, this was nearly one year before Oak Park in May 1968).

It wasn’t just a tyrannical or misguided federal government that promoted residential segregation or that still continues to promote similar ideas today…

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